Updated Monday, April 24, 2017, 11:42 p.m. EDT: The state of Arkansas has executed Marcel Williams for the 1994 rape, beating and murder of Stacy Errickson. He was the second death row inmate to be put to death Monday night as part of the first double execution in the U.S. since 2000.
Arkansas Online reports that Williams was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m., more than three hours after Jack Jones, who was killed by the state earlier in the evening.
Both men were sentenced to death more than 20 years ago, and attempted many legal challenges leading up to their executions.
Earlier Monday evening, a federal judge had issued a temporary stay in Williams’ execution, but she lifted that stay a little over one hour later with little explanation.
Williams confessed to the November 1994 rape, beating and murder of Errickson, whom he had kidnapped from a gas station, as well as to disposing of her body “where she could not be found.”
Her body was found in a shallow grave 15 days after her disappearance and one week after Williams was arrested.
Updated Monday, April 24, 2017, 10:12 p.m. EDT: Lawyers for Marcel Williams filed a successful challenge Monday night for a stay of his execution after inmate Jack Jones reportedly suffered a “torturous and inhumane” execution earlier in the evening.
U.S. District Judge Kathy Baker halted Williams’ execution until 8:30 p.m. CT or until she issues another order, whichever is later, according to ABC News.
At issue was the execution of Jack Jones, who was put to death earlier in the evening. Attorneys for Williams said in court papers that it took prison staff 45 minutes to place an IV into Jones, and that he was moving his lips and gulping for air after administration of the first drug, midazolam, which is supposed to render inmates unconscious.
Because their client did not agree to having a central line placed, attorneys for Williams argued that as an obese person, he could face a “torturous death.”
Williams’ death warrant expires at midnight Monday night.
Updated Monday, April 24, 2017, 9:01 p.m. EDT: Jack Jones, the first of two men scheduled to be executed by the state of Arkansas Monday night, is now dead. He was given the lethal injection at Cummins Unit prison in southeast Arkansas and was pronounced dead at 7:20 p.m., 14 minutes after the procedure began.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, Jones was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1995 rape and killing of Mary Phillips; he had another conviction for the attempted murder of Phillips’ 11-year-old daughter, as well as a conviction for another rape and murder in the state of Florida.
Barring any last-minute legal blocks, Marcel Williams will be executed at 8:15 p.m. Monday night.
Jack Jones, 52, and Marcel Williams, 46, are scheduled to die at 7 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. CT respectively. Their executions come as controversy continues to swirl around the state’s expedited plan to kill death row inmates before its supply of a questionable lethal injection drug expires at the end of the month.
After killing its first death row inmate in more than a decade Thursday night with the execution of Ledell Lee, the state of Arkansas is prepared
for another grand performance of state-sanctioned revenge to do its first double execution in 17 years Monday night when it puts to death two more death row inmates.
Lawyers for both men attempted to challenge the state’s lethal-injection combo in state and federal courts, as NBC reports, but appeals for both men were dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court, a district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.
The state had originally planned to execute eight men in 10 days, but the executions of four of the men have been blocked, leaving only Lee, who was killed Thursday; Jones and Williams, who are scheduled for Monday night; and Kenneth Williams, who is scheduled to die Thursday night.
Last month the Fair Punishment Project took a long, hard look at the cases of all eight men scheduled to be put to death and made some disturbing findings.
Both Jones and Williams have a history of being physically and sexually abused.
In the case of Williams, by the time he was 9 or 10 years old, he was already the victim of sexual abuse; his mother allowed her adult friends to use Williams as a sexual partner so that the family could have a place to live. By the time he was 12, he was being routinely pimped out by his mother to women in their 20s, 30s and 40s in exchange for food stamps, food or a place to stay. Additionally, while serving time as a teenager in an adult prison, he was gang-raped by three people.
Williams’ mother was described by an expert as “categorically unfit” to be a parent, and according to the report, she physically abused him in “unrelenting” and “savage” ways, including beating him with an extension cord until he was bleeding.
All of this evidence was presented to a federal judge, who found it compelling and eventually reversed Williams’ death sentence, but the federal appellate court reinstated his sentence, saying that he never should have received a hearing in the first place.
Jones suffers from bipolar disorder and depression, the symptoms of which date all the way back to his childhood, during which he suffered paralyzing hallucinations where he saw “bugs, ants and spiders in particular that he believed were going to get him.”
Jones was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, and when he was 16, a doctor recommended that he receive psychotherapy and family counseling, but his family did not follow through on it.
Jones attempted suicide in 1989 and again in 1991, after which he was admitted for psychiatric attention. Just months prior to committing capital murder in 1995, Jones voluntarily committed himself, reporting severe depression and repeated suicidal ideation. He was diagnosed as bipolar and prescribed lithium.
Jones was also physically abused by his father, and he was abducted by three strangers who sexually abused him and raped him.
The jurors in Jones’ trial heard almost none of this mitigating evidence.
In a direct message to The Root, the Fair Punishment Project’s executive director, Rob Smith, had the following to say:
40 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the death penalty on the condition that in practice only the people who commit the most serious offenses *and* have the most extreme culpability receive the death penalty. The Court also explained the importance of effective defense representation in uncovering and presenting the type of mitigation evidence that juries need to make a determination of whether a person is among the most culpable.
Today, we know without question that the quality of lawyering in capital representation remains abysmal and that the people we put on death row are not the most culpable, but rather the most impaired people. The two executions tonight illustrate the point—one of the men has a serious mental illness and the other experienced truly unspeakably sexual abuse as a childhood, the kind of trauma that affects brain development and adult reasoning and judgment capacity.
At some point, when the Court knows that the conditions it imposed on capital punishment are not being met, and are unlikely to ever be met, it’s failure to intervene to stop executions like the ones tonight, is itself culpable.
Justice Williams Brennan once wrote that “those whom we would banish from society or from the human community itself often speak in too faint a voice to be heard above society’s demand for punishment. It is the particular role of courts to hear these voices[.] Clearly, the Court hears these voices. The question is whether they will fulfill their constitutional obligation to do something about it.
If the state of Arkansas is allowed to go through with these executions tonight, it will be further proof that our country’s justice system needs an overhaul.
Appeal after appeal and clemency requests for both of these men have been denied, even after one of Williams’ victims testified on his behalf at his hearing and noted that he is “a changed man.”
It is evident that the state is not so much seeking justice as it is seeking retribution, and the rush to get it before the drugs that make it possible expire is a most disgusting display of barbarism.
As of this writing, there are no legal barriers to the executions tonight. This post will be updated as developments occur.